How to Treat Swollen Lymph Nodes in the Armpit

May 7th 2016

Consult with a medical professional regarding the right course of action when you notice an armpit lump that does not go away. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your chances for an early cure.


The major and most noticeable symptom of a swollen lymph node of the armpit includes a lump noticeable underneath the skin of the armpit. Patients may easily feel these lumps by pressing into the skin. However, not all swollen lymph nodes may be large enough to be felt. Lymph nodes of the armpit, called axillary lymph nodes, are typically the size of a pea. If your swollen gland does not reduce in size, is not painful and gradually gets larger, you should seek the care of a medical professional.


The diagnosis depends on several tests. A doctor initially discusses your overall health. If you have a systemic infection such as a cold, it could lead to enlarged lymph nodes. Your doctor then palpitates the area of the lymph nodes to feel any swelling. In most cases, the lump simply stems from a normal immune reaction to an infection.

However, your doctor may order additional tests if an initial examination does not determine a cause for the swollen lymph nodes. A doctor could order a complete blood count to measure the amount of blood cells in your system. White blood cells may indicate an infection, while red blood cells could show signs of a blood-based cancer such as leukemia. A chest x-ray or mammogram allows a doctor to get a better view of the armpit lump. A doctor could remove part of the lump (a biopsy) to test for cancer cells. Allergy testing may show a systemic immune reaction that causes the swelling.

Treatment Options

Treatments for swollen armpit lumps depend on the cause. Your medical professional could prescribe antibiotics for a bacterial infection. Antihistamines may reduce symptoms of allergic reactions. Some armpit lumps do not require treatment, but swelling could go down with warm compresses or over-the-counter pain remedies.

Cancers that could lead to swollen armpit lymph nodes include breast cancer, lymphoma and leukemia. Breast cancer remains particularly concerning because most of the immune reaction to breast cancer settles into the lymph nodes of the armpit. An oncologist may recommend surgery, chemotherapy or radiation treatments to remove cancer cells depending on the type of cancer involved. Localized cancers that have not spread to other parts of the body can generally be treated more easily and result in better survival rates.


Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit may indicate one of several causes, including an infection, an injury to the armpit, hidradenitis, brucellosis or cat-scratch disease. Other more serious causes of swollen lymph glands in the armpit revolve around an immune reaction to localized or metastasized cancers. Determine the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for swollen lymph nodes in the armpit with this relevant guide.

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